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Words, May 15

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Where'd you get that peeper? Myanmar?

“WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Marine scientists studying the carcass of a rare colossal squid said Wednesday that they had measured its eye at about 11 inches across — bigger than a dinner plate — making it the largest animal eye on Earth.”

I believe there's such a thing as too much eye. But, this column is more concerned with nomenclature than animal optics. I've been sifogging along thinking that a really large squid was called a giant squid. Until this article appeared recently, I'd never heard of colossal squid. It sounds like adjective inflation, but thanks to the Internet I now know that a giant squid and a colossal squid are two different creatures, to scientists anyway, and that the principal difference is, as one might expect, size. The colossal is bigger — “The largest known invertebrate,” according to one source.

The colossal squid has been known to the scientific community since 1925, my sources say, but “the popular press” (except for me) first took notice in 2003, when a specimen was pulled from the ocean. The largest colossal squid yet — the one with the dinner-plate eye — was found last fall off the coast of New Zealand. During my research, I came across TONMO (“The Octopus News Magazine Online”) and from now on, I'll get all my octopus news there. If or when fishermen turn up with a humongous squid, I know TONMO will be able to put it in perspective.

Another term that's had me going lately is Myanmar. That's the country victimized by a colossal cyclone. Or is it, as Homer Simpson might say. Most of the news media are calling it  Myanmar, but some are saying Burma. Turns out the ruling military junta changed the name to Myanmar some time back, but the democratically elected parliament and other foes of the generals continue to call it Burma. In a situation like this, I always ask myself “What would Erroll Flynn do?” What he did in 1945 was save the country from the Japanese. The movie was called “Objective, Burma.” That pretty much settles it for me.

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